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french names for grandparents: les grands-parents

Grand-mère and Grand-père – French Names for Grandparents


Grandparents often have an unfair advantage over the parents. They are able to pamper their grandchildren without a real need to be strict. So they’re usually loved by their grandkids.

This universal rule applies around the globe, but the names we use for grandparents are different in other languages. So today we will look at French names for grandparents.

French Terms for Grandparents

The French term for grandmother is grand-mère and the word for grandfather is grand-père. As mother and father usually both have parents, we get:

  • la grand-mère maternelle — the maternal grandmother
  • la grand-mère paternelle — the paternal grandmother
  • le grand-père maternel — the maternal grandfather
  • le grand-père paternel — the paternal grandfather
  • les grands-parents maternels — the maternal grandparents
  • les grands-parents paternels — the paternal grandparents

But it’s not only the article “the” that changes depending on the gender in the French language, the possessive pronoun “my” also varies according to the gender of the noun. So if you refer to your particular grandparents you would say:

  • ma grand-mère — my grandmother
  • mon grand-père — my grandfather
  • mes grands-parents — my grandparents

When you go back even more generations you get

  • la arrière grand-mère — the great grandmother
  • le arrière grand-père — the great grandfather
  • la arrière-arrière grand-mère — the great-great grandmother
  • le arrière-arrière grand-père — the great-great grandfather

But like in other languages, French families rarely use these “official names” to address their ancestors.


Affectionate Terms for Grandparents in French Families

Just like in English, the French use a couple of different names for grandma and grandpa. They are more affectionate than the official terms.

French Names for Grandma

mami - grandma in french
Grandma reads aloud — Image by Aline Dassel from Pixabay

These are the most common names used for grandmothers:

  • mamie — grandma
  • grand-maman — grandmama
  • bonne-maman — grandma (literally good-mom)
  • mémé — granny (also used pejoratively, e.g. regarding fashion)
  • mémère — granny (in east France)

French Names for Grandpa

papi - french for granddad
Image by Dan/Kelli Oakley from Pixabay

And here we have the nicknames for French grandfathers:

  • papi (also papy)— grandpa
  • grand-papa — grandpa
  • bonne-papa — granddaddy
  • pépé — grand-papa
  • pépère — granddad (but can also mean chubby)
Image by Kerry Wilson from Pixabay

Examples for using French Names for Grandparents

Please note that question marks and exclamation points in French are written with a space in front of them.

À Noël, mamie et papi viennent nous rendre visite. — At Christmas grandma and grandpa come to visit us. 

Mamie t’a fait un gâteau. — Grandma has baked you a cake.

On va à la pêche avec papi ? — Shall we go fishing with granddaddy?

N’oublie pas de remercier mamie et papi pour ton cadeau ! — Don’t forget to thank grandma and grandpa for your gift!